by CHRIS ROGERS
Trempealeau County and La Crosse County, Wis., are now under “severe risk” for COVID-19 spread after 31 new cases were detected in the past week in Trempealeau County and La Crosse County reported 67 new cases in the past three days. Trempealeau County health officials recommended citizens to return safer-at-home-era practices: no non-essential travel, no indoor gatherings, no outdoor gatherings over 10 people, and no dine-in service at restaurants and bars.
“Since we bumped up to severe risk, we’re kind of going back to some of those practices in the safer-at-home order,” Trempealeau County Health Department Public Information Officer Kaila Baer said. “No non-essential travel — if it’s not for your job or your essential needs, we really recommend just staying home,” she explained. “If you do need to go inside — say your grocery store or pharmacy — make sure you’re wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing of six feet.” Outdoor gatherings should be limited to 10 people, with physical distancing and masks, and, Baer said, “There really should be no indoor gatherings.” She added, “For businesses, we are recommending bars and restaurants only do take-out and delivery. Dining in is strongly discouraged.”
Governor Tony Evers’ administration’s safer-at-home order was Wisconsin’s shelter-in-place order. It was abruptly lifted when the Wisconsin State Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional in mid-May. Now, the rapid rise of COVID-19 infections in Trempealeau County are spurring health officials to recommend citizens go back to a lockdown lifestyle, but those recommendations do not carry the force of law that the safer-at-home order did.
Following these recommendations now will make it possible to get back to normal sooner, Baer said. “If people do their part to reduce the spread, we can hopefully stay in the high risk category and hopefully make it down to the moderate level,” she stated. “Severe” is the highest risk level for COVID-19 spread. “High” and “moderate” are the next levels down, and they allow for some stay-at-home recommendations to be safely lifted.
Arcadia makes up nearly 40 percent of Trempealeau County cases, according to the local health department, followed by Galesville with 12 percent, Trempealeau with 11 percent, and Blair with 10 percent. Fifty-nine percent of cases have come from community transmission — meaning contact tracers were not able to identify a specific source of the spread. High rates of unknown community transmission are generally seen by health experts as a warning sign that the virus is spreading widely in an area.
Asked if there were any clusters of cases at specific workplaces or businesses in Trempealeau County, Baer said, “We’ve definitely had businesses where people have tested positive.” However, she stated, “I do want people to know that we are assessing the risk level of businesses, and we have not had any situations that have been high-risk, public-notification situations like La Crosse County did this past week.” La Crosse County closed public beaches and put out warnings after dozens of people caught the virus while visiting a handful of bars and restaurants. Watching out for those kinds of clusters is on Trempealeau County’s radar, but nothing has risen to that level yet, Baer stated.
For more information on COVID-19 cases in Trempealeau County and how to protect yourself and your community, visit co.trempealeau.wi.us/departments/health_department/coronavirus_covid-19/index.php and www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/index.htm.
Virus picks up some steam in Winona County, too
After weeks of relatively slow spread — with just two to five new infections per week — COVID-19 appeared to gain some momentum in Winona County this week. There have been eight new cases in Winona County the past three days. Rochester’s Olmsted County reported 81 new infections in the past week.
“Winona County would like to remind everyone that places with large gatherings can be a potentially high-risk area for the spread of coronavirus,” Winona County Health and Human Services officials wrote in a press release. “Please keep this in mind when deciding to partake in large group activities, for example, a bar. We encourage you to use social distancing and masks when you are out in public.”
The county also stressed that people who develop COVID-19 symptoms should get tested right away. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath or difficult breathing, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.
In Winona, COVID-19 diagnostic tests are available at the Winona Health Urgent Care clinic at 855 Mankato Avenue and at the Gundersen Health System Winona Campus at 1122 West Highway 61. More information is available at www.winonahealth.org or www.gundersenhealth.org or by contacting Winona Health’s COVID-19 nurse line at 507-457-7619.
People who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate at home to prevent spreading the virus to others, county health officials reminded citizens.
For more information on how to protect yourself and your community, visit health.state.mn.us or www.cdc.gov.